The Battery Life

Light Web Browsing

Here we're simply listing to MP3s in iTunes on repeat while browsing through a series of webpages with no flash on them. Each page forwards on to the next in the series after 20 seconds.

The display is kept at 50% brightness, all screen savers are disabled, but the hard drive is allowed to go to sleep if there's no disk activity. The wireless connection is enabled and connected to a local access point less than 20 feet away. This test represents the longest battery life you can achieve on the platform while doing minimal work. The results here are comparable to what you'd see typing a document in TextEdit or reading documents.

Light Web Browsing Battery Life

As glorified typewriters, you can’t beat the battery life offered by the MacBook Air. Light web browsing, document creation and music playback have minimal impact on the Air’s battery life. In fact, we actually beat Apple’s battery life claims in our light tests. The 11-inch Air delivers nearly 7 hours on a single charge and the 13-inch managed 11.2 hours. For a writer, you can’t do better than this.

Flash Web Browsing

The test here has three Safari windows open, each browsing a set of web pages with between 1 - 4 animated flash ads per page, at the same time. Each page forwards onto the next after about 20 seconds.

As always, the display is set to 50% brightness, audio at two bars, screensaver disabled and the hard drive is allowed to go to sleep if idle. The wireless connection is enabled and connected to a local access point less than 20 feet away.

Flash Web Browsing Battery Life

If you use the MacBook Air as a full function P...err Mac, the battery life drops steadily. In our Flash web browsing test battery life dropped to 4 - 5 hours depending on which Air you’re looking at. And the difference between the two isn’t all that great. The 13-inch only managed an extra 30 minutes of battery life.

Multitasking Battery Life

Our final battery life test is the worst case scenario. In this test we have three open Safari windows, each browsing a set of web pages with between 1 - 4 flash ads per page, at the same time. We're also playing an XviD video in a window all while downloading files from a server at 500KB/s.

Multitasking Battery Life

Our heavy multitasking test is the biggest issue. Neither MacBook Air was able to deliver more than 3 hours of battery life on a single charge. The problem here isn’t just battery capacity but also the performance of the CPUs themselves. A major component of long lasting mobile battery life is a concept known as rush to idle.

Let’s say we have two CPUs. The first is an ultra low power CPU that only consumes 10W under load, but 0.5W at idle. The second is a high performance CPU that consumes 40W under load and 1W at idle. If it takes the first CPU 5ms to decode a frame of video at 10W but the second CPU can do it in 1ms, the total energy consumed over 33ms is is 0.064J for the first CPU and only 0.036J for the second CPU.

The longer the first CPU is idle, the more its typical and idle power advantages will come into play (hence the results in the light web browsing test). The more CPU bound the workload however, the more the advantage over the second more high performance CPU will disappear. Our heavy downloading/multitasking test is the most CPU bound of all of our battery life tests and the workload is consistent regardless of how fast you execute it. In other words, a faster CPU won’t be able to do more work, it’ll just be able to rush to idle quicker.

The battery life story boils down to your usage model, even more so than with the MacBook Pro. Light users are going to get wonderful battery life out of the new MacBook Air, particularly the 13-inch model. However, if you are the type of user who does a lot of multitasking or if you’re running particularly CPU intensive apps (e.g. Photoshop, iMovie, etc...) then these two notebooks will hardly last you. I suspect this is the distinction Apple is looking to make. If you’re a regular user, just playing around on Gmail and browsing the web then the MacBook Air is all you’ll need. If you are doing any work with your machine however, you’ll want to look towards the MacBook Pro.

Can You Be Productive With the 11-inch? The 11-inch as a Windows Notebook
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  • cabjf - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    The fact that the iPad will easily sync with your main computer does give it one advantage over the Air. If Apple produced some type of easy to use syncing software so that you could use the Air as a portable version of your main computer's contents, it would be the perfect road companion to an iMac, Mac Pro, or even a 17-inch Macbook Pro. Perhaps that is the way they are moving in bringing an App Store and other iOS features to Mac OS X. Maybe that's part of the intended use for that huge data center they are building (and already considering expanding). Reply
  • wintermute000 - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    " If Apple produced some type of easy to use syncing software so that you could use the Air as a portable version of your main computer's contents, it would be the perfect road companion to an iMac, Mac Pro, or even a 17-inch Macbook Pro."

    Easily done with a bit of work
    - know where the files are and don't do things like let itunes sort folders
    - rsync or any decent gui backup/sync software

    storage is an issue but for work purposes 64Gb is enough to handle it
    for streaming media use streaming media solutions.
    Reply
  • psonice - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    Apple sell 'mobile me' which pretty much does this. It gives you an 'iDisk' in the cloud, accessible from any of your machines (think it supports windows too?), plus there's an iphone app to access it. It also syncs your bookmarks, preferences, dock icons (don't think it syncs the actual apps though) and keychain (for passwords). There's push email + web hosting (main thing I use it for) and other bits too.

    It's $60/year, and it's possible to get pretty much everything for free elsewhere. But like a log of apple stuff, it works well, it's nicely integrated, and if you have the money it's not worth arsing around with the others.
    Reply
  • Tmoz - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - link

    You could use Dropbox to do this: http://db.tt/eiXQTsi (Disclosure: Referral link)

    It syncs your files to Amazon S3 and then to any computers you have the software installed on (Mac/Windows/Linux are supported)
    Reply
  • dendysutrisna - Friday, August 12, 2011 - link

    Yes I understand, since this article was made when Apple's MacBook Air which has been reinforced Intel Core i5 has not come out. MacBook Air the latest generation, which has been paired with Mac OS X Lion, there is a AirDrop feature, where you can share with computer around you which in one network, even with the computer windows though. Try to look http://www.bestdealscomputers.net/netbooks/apple-m... I've made ​​a little review about the newest MacBook Air, you might want to find out more. Reply
  • quiksilvr - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Seriously, their pricing scheme makes absolutely no sense. I have attempted to see what COULD be the decent price point, but a few points have to be made:

    1) The Macbook 13 (the white one) simply needs to die.

    2) They are now hitting 4 different screen sizes, and IMO they should stick to three and make things easier (as should other PC makers)
    1) 12" screen (not 11.6", 12") for the netbook market
    2) 14" screen for the general market
    3) 16" screen for the heavy multimedia and desktop replacement market

    3) Get rid of the "Pro" terminology. Simply have it Macbook 12, 14, 16 and Air versions of these models (Macbook Air 12, etc.)

    4) STOP forcing customers to get the "upgraded" version just so that we can upgrade the CPU. This is annoying and very Dell like and customers don't like it.
    Reply
  • martyrant - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Apple has needed a price overhaul since the company's inception.

    Glad you are only now realizing.
    Reply
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, November 02, 2010 - link

    You are just too dumb to understand that similar quality, service, and a modern OS from other companies is as much or more than Apple products. Except they don't have a modern OS. Reply
  • quiksilvr - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Okay, here is my attempt (and I know this will never happen because it makes too much sense)

    Macbook Air 12: $799
    Macbook 12: $599

    Macbook Air 14: $999
    Macbook 14: $799

    Macbook Air 16: $1199
    Macbook 16: $999

    And as shocking as this may seem to Mac users, this is still a major premium over PCs.

    Macbook Air Baseline:
    -Core i3 LV (or ULV) with Core i5/i7 LV/ULV option (add thickness if necessary)
    -Integrated Intel HD chip and dedicated nVidia card with Optimus
    -SSD (I would say start it at 90GB and work your way up)
    -USB 3.0 all the way
    -mini Displayport with choice of adaptor included (DVI, VGA, HDMI, Displayport, etc.)
    -Wireless, Bluetooth, yada yada
    -4 GB RAM
    -No Optical
    -And one thing I just noticed, put an actual microphone PORT and put a stereo microphone next to the webcam
    -Expresscard Slot option

    Macbook Baseline:
    -Core i3 with Core i5/i7 option (add thickness if necessary)
    -Integrated Intel HD chip and dedicated nVidia card with Optimus
    -HDD with SSD option (start HDD with 250GB)
    -USB 3.0
    -mini Displayport with choice of adaptor included (DVI, VGA, HDMI, Displayport, etc.)
    -Wireless, Bluetooth, yada yada
    -4 GB RAM
    -DVD Burner with Blu Ray Player/Blu Ray Burner option
    -Expresscard Slot option

    5) And for the love of god, stop making these screens epic glossy. This is a message to ALL PC makers! Make it half and half or give a realistically priced matte option (FREE)
    Reply
  • solipsism - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - link

    Nothing you wrote makes sense.

    How much is the ULV CPU from Intel?
    How much is the LV CPu from Intel?
    How much is that Nvidia 320M?
    How much does it cost to mill an aluminum case?
    How much are 9.5mm ultra-slim slot-loading BRDs?
    Can you find any for sale?
    Which Core-i3 LV and ULV chips will they use?
    Which USB3.0 controller will they use, how much will cost, where will go in the Airs?
    Where will this ExpressCard slot go?
    Why scrape the 11, 13 and 15” Mac notebooks for 12, 14 and 16” displays?
    Why didn’t you fail to address the size, weight, or quality of anything? You just took a price that you compared to other vendors, bumped it slightly and then added a whole mess of features without considering engineering, costs, or anything else. You might as well add include TARDIS technology to fit all that in there and/or use a TARDIS to go into the future to a time when all that is actually possible, but instead you just sound like a TARD in your self proclaimed “makes too much sense” post.
    Reply

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